Bowmanville Zoo’s New Zebra Highlights Equine Disease Surveillance Concerns

Zorro in his first Canadian home. He is a Plains/Burchell's Zebra. Health records and a Coggins test for EIA were done when he was imported to Ontario.

Zorro in his first Canadian home. He is a Plains/Burchell’s Zebra. Health records and a Coggins test for EIA were done when he was imported to Ontario in 2012.

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

It’s no secret that the Bowmanville Zoo is on the receiving end of more negative publicity after Zoo Director Michael Hackenberger muttered some expletives at his mini-horse riding baboon Austin after the primate didn’t follow his “script” during a live television show. Hackenberger later apologized for his utterances after the TV show expressed its displeasure with his lack of impulse control towards his animals.

But the Alberta branch of Fish and Wildlife Enforcement have inadvertently put the Bowmanville Zoo in the spotlight again when they seized a tame Burchell’s Zebra named “Zorro” from a farm in Alberta, where he is a prohibited animal, and gave him to the Zoo while they were in town supplying animals for “Whoop-Up Days” in Alberta. Not only did Fish and Wildlife confound the issue with Zorro’s previous owners in a long chain of custody disagreement, they apparently did not test him for Equine Infectious Anemia before giving him to the zoo.

Timeline of Events

  1. June 2012 – Zorro imported to Canada
  2. February 2015 – Zorro sold to Newmarket, Ontario equine rescue/breeder who did not take possession of him immediately. He then spent some months at a different facility in Ontario
  3. July 2015 – Zorro flipped to new Alberta owner by the rescue
  4. August 2015 – Zorro seized by Fish and Wildlife Enforcement as a prohibited animal
  5. August 2015 – An offer was made by Fish and Wildlife Enforcement to return Zorro to his last owner in Ontario, who refused to accept him. He was then offered back to the owners of the farm who imported him, who agreed to take him. After arrangements were made, F&WE wrote back that they would be giving him to the Bowmanville Zoo, as “this  facility is CAZA accredited and we feel confident that they have the ability to provide the care for this animal.”
  6. August 2015 – The zebra was picked-up August 23rd

At one time earlier in the email chain Fish and Wildlife Enforcement proposed that Zorro be relocated to the Calgary Zoo, but something changed their minds. Did the decision have anything to do

Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Branch (to original Ontario owner on August 19th) – “A zoo in Ontario will be taking Zorro. They want a human friendly animal and we will be picking Zorro up at no cost.”

Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Branch wrote (to original Ontario owner on August 19th) – “A zoo in Ontario will be taking Zorro. They want a human friendly animal and we will be picking Zorro up at no cost.”

with the fact that the Bowmanville Zoo was touring in Alberta at the time and had available space in their trailer?

Ignoring all the issues with private ownership of exotic animals, the most concerning to me is the fact that Fish and Wildlife Enforcement (and probably other branches of the Alberta government) did not have concerns about shipping an equid to Ontario without testing for Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA), a disease which while rare, is devastating to horse owners when it does invade their barns, since equids must be permanently quarantined in a building with vigilant insect control (the vectors that spread the disease are flies and other insects that bite an infected horse before transferring it to another) or humanely euthanized. Also commonly called “swamp fever,” EIA is caused by a retrovirus, similar to the human HIV.  There is currently no vaccine against the virus, and once infected an equine carries the virus for the rest of its life.  Episodes of more severe signs can occur even years after the initial infection, and during these episodes an infected animal poses the greatest threat to other horses because the viral load in the bloodstream is very high with greater potential for being spread to other animals.

Fish And Wildlife Enforcment Branch (to former Ontario owner on August 17) “It is paramount that we establish the risk factor, if any, to Alberta’s Equine and Cattle industries…”


From the picture I can’t tell whether Zorro is completely partitioned off from the cats. Megaphones from across the street during zoo protests are stressful, but travelling with predators is not?

From the picture I can’t tell whether Zorro is completely partitioned off from the cats. The zoo complains that megaphones from across the street during protests are stressful, but travelling with predators is not?

The test for EIA is generally referred to as a Coggins test, although a more accurate ELISA-type test is lately being used to test for the disease, which is most frequently found in Saskatchewan and Alberta. In those provinces there’s a reservoir of infected horses that are still not being identified, and could continue to perpetuate the infection.

OMAFRA fact sheet on EIA

“Equine infectious anemia (EIA) ….. is a potentially fatal disease caused by a virus that can infect all types of equines, including horses, mules, zebras and donkeys. In most cases, the disease begins with an acute phase of illness, followed by chronic cyclical symptoms, which continue throughout the remainder of the horse’s life. Some horses do not show any symptoms but can still be a source of infection for other animals. EIA occurs throughout Ontario and is an ongoing concern for horse owners in the province.”

Control Measures in Canada

  • To conduct EIA testing in Canada, a veterinarian must be federally accredited and send samples only to Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)-approved labs.
  • It is required by law that all suspected cases of EIA be immediately reported to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), which investigates all reported cases. In Ontario, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) may at times provide assistance with the response.
  • If a horse is confirmed to have EIA, it may either be placed under a permanent CFIA quarantine (if it doesn’t have any symptoms) or ordered destroyed with paid compensation.
  • The CFIA also requires mandatory testing of imported horses and has strict regulations on import of animals and animal products.

Worms and Germs Blog – “EIA testing is required prior to travel to many places and prior to participating in many competitions or shows.  Regular testing of animals that travel frequently helps to identify infected animals more quickly.”


At this point in time testing for EIA is a voluntary program administered by the CFIA, but horse owners in Alberta and Saskatchewan are often cautioned to avoid proximity to horses of unknown

Zebras are preyed upon by Lions, Leopards, Hyenas and African Wild Dogs, along with numerous other large carnivores such as Crocodiles when they are crossing rivers or drinking. Hopefully he was fully partitioned off from the lions and tigers with a solid barricade.

This is the trailer Zorro travelled in after he was seized. Zebras are preyed upon by lions, leopards, hyenas and african wild dogs, along with numerous other large carnivores such as crocodiles when they are crossing rivers or drinking. Hopefully Zorro was fully partitioned off from the lions and tigers with a solid barricade so he would not be caused anxiety while on the long trip to Ontario.

EIA status.  This can be tough to do if your horse (or zebra) goes to shows where EIA testing is not mandatory. But with the current problems out west (or anywhere else that EIA may be circulating) testing for EIA prior to moving horses to other provinces is something that should be strongly promoted. This is especially important as the prairies are seeing the highest number of EIA cases in years, with many new cases emerging each year on different properties.

While the Fish and Wildlife people insist in emails that Zorro is a concern for the cattle and equine industry (which is not a frivolous concern) they don’t mention EIA in any emails to former owners of Zorro, nor do they evidently have any concern about the ONTARIO equine industry when they return him without any apparent Coggins test. Was he tested at all before embarking to Ontario? If so when? According to his Alberta owner, no one came to her farm to stick him with a needle at any point, and he was loaded directly on a trailer bound for Ontario with other animals.  It is a bit after-the-fact to be testing him once he’s arrived at the zoo isn’t it?  Rather like shutting the barn door after the horse has already escaped….According to CAZA (Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums) testing for EIA appears in their Accreditation Standards documentation, and equids must be quarantined, as a “best practice.”

I think it is very unlikely that Zorro has been exposed to EIA. He’s a good weight and looks very healthy in fact.  However, complacency is what contributes to the transmission of disease. The zoo equines as well as the horse industry should not be overlooked. I’ve always been required to provide a negative Coggins test even when changing barns within Ontario, because barn owners know that it could devastate their businesses if all the horses had to be destroyed.

It’s rather hypocritical for any level of the Alberta government to express concern only for their cattle and equines (by asking for vet records from previous owners),  but not show any basic common sense when sending Zorro to Ontario where we also have equines.  In any case,  veterinary records from 2012 wouldn’t prove much,  and are completely outdated.  Coggins is good for six months only.  Equines travelling from Alberta and Saskatchewan should automatically be tested before being transferred to the eastern provinces, IMO.


About heatherclemenceau

Hopefully as I've grown older I've also grown wiser, but one thing I've definitely become cognizant of is the difference between making a living and making a life. Frequently outraged by some of life's cruelties, and respect diversity. But.....I don't suffer fools gladly, and occasionally, this does get me into some trouble! I have the distinction of being the world's worst golfer - no wait, I do believe that there is a gypsy in Moldavia who is a worse golfer than I. Nor am I much of a dancer - you won't see a booty-shakin' flygirl routine from me! I'm also not the kind of cook who can whip up a five-course meal on a radiator either! And I've never figured out how to get an orchid to bloom a second time. I love to discuss literature, science, philosophy, and sci-fi , or even why Seinfeld is funny on so many levels. Words move me. I'm very soft-hearted about most things, especially animals, but I have a stoicism about me that is sometimes interpreted incorrectly. I do have a definite edge and an often "retro-adolescent" sense of humour at times. I'm a big advocate of distributed computing projects to advance science. Check out if you want to find out more. I'm an eclectic plant-based eater, and as such, it's a personal practice of mine to seduce innocent meat-eaters into cruising the (salad) bars at every opportunity. You would be powerless to resist. I was recently surprised to find that a computer algorithm concluded that I write like Dan Brown, which is funny because I didn't think Dan Brown could actually write. Check out your own style - Oh, and I love impractical shoes and funky hats.

28 responses »

  1. Bowmanville Zoo hires 17 year old girls that enjoy joining his cult because he can control them like any cult leader. Their bonus plan is that they get to take a baby tiger home to play with at night.

  2. They should have given Zorro back to the original owner, not changing there mind and taking him to a Zoo. This wouldn’t be an issue/concern right now if that was the case.

  3. I’m the previous owner of Zorro, albeit only for a short time. I bought him from Ms Cheryl Clews. At no point was he owned by the horse rescue. My best friend owns the rescue and I had a paddock on her farm, that’s the extent of her involvement. The rescue never gave a dime towards Zorro. It was quickly discovered that Zorro was not happy with me. Any attempts to obtain information from Ms Clews regarding Zorro, vaccines for example, was declined. The reply was that it was confidential. In his best interest I posted him for sale. The Alberta home appeared to be a good choice, I even got an amazing reference from a RCMP officer for the lady. I was away on vacation when the new owner in Alberta sent me a text. She said it appeared she couldn’t have a zebra in her province. Then she said she’d hide him. Prior to sale she told me she gad friends with zebras, they would help her if she had any issues at all. Afterwards I discovered these friends didn’t live in Alberta, they were in Ontario! I gave her 2 names of ladies that would love to have Zorro, told her to inform the wildlife officer. She told me not to worry. I requested the contact info to call the gentleman myself, no reply. I sent multiple messages asking for updates, no reply. I did offer for him to be sent back, told her I’d help pay shipping back to Ontario, no reply. Then found out about the zoo, never wanted this for him. I would still take him back. I did not flip this zebra, never used him for any form of profit either from him being a stud (Ms Clews had him standing at stud) or by the sale of him. There are many facts being left out by Ms Clews regarding why she sold her pet zebra, Zorro. I will not go to the levels of others and drag anybody through the mud or slander somebody’s name and reputation. I’m praying that Zorro will be okay. I wish my requests would have been answered or maybe if Ms Clews had contacted me with information about Zorro being seized this could have had a different outcome.

    • Kim, I’m going to allow you to make your point even though you have missed the entire point of this blog. The issue is that the Alberta government apparently did not see fit to protect the Ontario equine industry by pulling a coggins on Zorro before sending him back. That’s it. Everything else is pretty much background noise.

      If you are partners with another person operating a rescue and Zorro lives on the rescue property for any period, I can see why someone might think the rescue owned him. Only a copy of a Bill of Sale is proof of ownership.

      If I were buying any equid, I would ask for medical history up front before purchase. I have no idea why that info would not be supplied if it were indeed not given. If I were selling an exotic, I would do my due diligence and make sure I was selling the animal to a place where he is legally able to reside – that’s as much a responsibility of the seller as it is of the buyer. It makes no difference to me whether he was a stud or not, unless horses should not be used as studs either. If you can breed animals and sell them to responsible homes, I have no problem with that. If you breed them and dump them into slaughter, that’s a different matter entirely. If your operation also breeds horses for sale, as I have heard in the past, then what’s the difference between you and your partner and Ms. Clews?

      Fish and Wildlife knew who you were; they had your full name and this was included in the emails I saw from them. I contacted that particular rescue a few days ago asking whether contracts were used to place animals with buy-back agreements (you can see my post on the Facebook page) but no one replied to me. There is still no reply almost 2 weeks later.

      Nobody’s name has been libeled because, aside from Ms. Clews herself, the names of previous owners were not mentioned.

      I”m not getting into a war between two camps. The issue is the risk of EIA being introduced into Ontario, which would not have happened if he had not been sold/purchased to live in Alberta where he was not legal, on top of Fish and Wildlife not taking reasonable precautions when re-homing an animal to a different province.

      I’m sorry now that Zorro’s “forever home” appears to be in Bowmanville.

      • Perhaps some more research would have been in order. If your point was regarding whether the Alberta officials had run a coggins test why would you not have stuck to facts surrounding that issue? Clearly you felt a need to add false information that you hadn’t followed up on that is irrelevant to the coggins issue. Could you please clarify how that was relevant? Also please clarify which provinces require a valid coggins to move horses or any animal between provinces. Are there any? And if not what is the purpose of your article?

      • Adding a timeline helps people to understand the confusion surrounding the movements of Zorro before he landed at the zoo. It’s not irrelevant at all. Don’t you work for this rescue? I guess if so, that explains the line of questioning…

        Currently no provinces require a coggins, but you’re not very conversant with EIA if you think that just because it’s not (yet) a requirement, you needn’t bother. Didn’t you find enough supportive information on EIA transmission in the blog post? Everyone has a responsibility towards disease suppression. It’s a safety precaution, like a pre-purchase exam. I’ve had one for every horse I’ve purchased and every time I’ve changed barns, the barn manager insisted that I provide one pulled within the last six months. Even though we are pretty safe here in Ontario.

        In fact, the newly formed Equine Biosecurity Advisory Committee is in talks to partition Canada into different “biosecurity zones” for EIA and at some point, expect it to be mandatory if you cross between zones. Read for yourself:

        “The experience of the CFIA, supported by available data, indicates that the risk of being infected with EIA is higher in horses in western Canada than in eastern Canada. Considerable gains have been made in decreasing the occurrence of EIA in tested horses in eastern Canada. In order to protect this group, the CFIA is proposing to make Canada west of the Manitoba – Ontario border a primary zone for EIA and implement an EIA testing requirement for those equines moving east across this interprovincial border. The reason for selecting this point in Canada is based on the relatively high number of EIA cases that have been identified in BC, YT, AB and SK as well as the logistics of travelling from western to eastern Canada. There is only one principle road which crosses the MB-ON boarder and this site has been used as a data collection point for livestock shipments in the past. All other land routes from western to eastern Canada would involve crossing into the U.S. which would necessitate an EIA test to be performed (United States Department of Agriculture requirements). The logistics of putting a primary zone and movement controls in place will require significant development and assistance from stakeholders…..”

        Source –

        Hence my criticism of the Alberta government – they are part of the proposed biosecurity measures that are being recommended to horse owners, meanwhile, the government doesn’t take reasonable precautions as far as we can tell. That seems whacked to me.

      • Sadly if wildlife had my info, nobody contacted me. I would have had no issues helping with cost of a Coggins test or with shipping back.

      • Sadly if wildlife had my info, nobody contacted me. I would have had no issues helping with cost of a Coggins test.

  4. If I had been given the opportunity, I would have had the Coggins done and paid for it. Nobody contacted me. Pray Zorro is okay and will be okay.

    • Since he was seized by the Alberta government, it was their responsibility to pull a Coggins before sending him out-of-province. They advised the Alberta owner that they took legal possession of him, so it falls on only them to do it.

      • Heather, the misinformation is not regarding your research into EIA. There is considerable debate about who told fish an wildlife that Kim wouldn’t take the zebra back? That statement has clearly caused quite a stir and I’m not the only one who would like it cleared up. Thanks

      • Deborah, why don’t you understand that this blog post is not about you? Have you heard of the Streisand Effect?

        Why don’t you ask Alberta Fish and Wildlife then? Get it from the horses’ mouth, so to speak.

      • I’ll say it again, I offered to have him shipped home and help pay the cost. If a Coggins test was required I would have paid for it My offer was not acknowledged! I’ve also contacted the zoo. Told them I’m the previous owner, not Cheryl Clews, let them know I would take him back.

  5. Kim as the Vice President of the rescue your best friend owns you both are stated as the new owners on Cheryl’s previous website advertising Zorro for sale. You may have been the one to purchase him, but your rescue has some shady business already, you actively have a grey filly posted for adoption, here ( that was bred by the President of the rescue by her personal mare and stud. How is this a reputable business practice???

    The rescue website lists you as Vice President here:

    The Elite Equine page lists you and your best friend as owners here:

  6. Realistically this is none of your business. This has to do with Zorros previous owner. Witch is the owner who sold him to someone in Alberta. If a RCMP officer said he did not need a coffins test done then I am pretty sure it is true. Kim has done all she could for Zorro. She has contacted the zoo and told them she would take him back. The pervious owner is Kim not Ms.Clews. It is really sad how so many people on here are so board with their life that the have to cause so much trouble. This has nothing to do with anyone except Kim.

    • None of my business? For the last time, this blog is not about you – it’s about the Alberta government not taking steps to protect Ontario equids, and Zorro’s movements that led up to this criticism.

      Since when are RCMP officers experts in disease surveillance anyway? Coffins test?

      If you want to be taken seriously, you can start by running your post through a spell-checker, a tool you clearly need.

  7. Get your facts correct before posting information. Zorro was privately owned by myself, NOT the rescue. Regardless of my connection to the rescue Zorro was mine.
    You have a job, I’d think, does this mean you own the company… I DID NOT flip. He required a home better suited for him. Sadly I was mislead by purchaser, yes I should have asked point blank if she checked her laws. All info and references would make one believe all was good. Zorro was able to and still able to come back to me. Cher only has animals not that are easy to send for slaughter, chickens and cows. As she never knows when she’ll need to jet off to California for kids acting career. This being the reason she sold Zorro. I understand wanting Zorro out of zoo but false information will not help him.

    • Since several people are determined to make this blog post all about them, let me state that there is considerable confusion about who owns what when when rescues (or their operators) also breed horses. There were clearly two people in this transaction, judging by screen caps that have been posted. If anyone is transacting business with either of you, how do they know when they are dealing with the individual or the rescue, when you reply to conversations under your own names?

      If I am interested in a home-bred horse of yours, as promoted on the rescue Facebook page, what am I purchasing? A “rescued horse?” Or a home-bred horse sold by a private individual? If you advertise horses on your Facebook page for adoption/sale, isn’t it fair to assume that they have all been rescued from undesirable circumstances?

      If you offer both home-bred and rescued horses on a single Facebook page, how do we know what and who we are contracting with?

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